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5 Questions Not to Ask a Veteran

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Veterans come in all sizes, shapes and colors, and of course, branches of the military they served in; yet some of the five worst question to ask any veteran — combat or non-combat alike — are equally painful. Below are five things to not ask a veteran.

• What is PTSD?

1. “Have you ever shot or killed anyone?”

From my experience, this is a veteran’s least favorite question, but is asked by strangers and friends all the time. The person asking the question really has no idea of how personal and intimate this question is. The manner in which its casually asked can be alarming and can make us distrust the society we’re trying to adjust back into, be it six days or 60 years after our service and sacrifice to our great nation.

2. “Did you get shot?”

Again, this is a super personal question; while the number of Purple Heart recipients is relatively small compared to those who served and easily searchable, why do people feel the need to ask veterans this question? If in fact the veteran was shot or injured, why would they want to talk about it? It’s hard to discuss even with a therapist, forget a stranger at our kid’s soccer game.

3. “Can’t you just get over it?”

Be it trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the simple answer is: no, we can’t. Trust me, we want to, we really want to. We are not holding on to the past just to piss people off or make their lives inconvenient.

4. “You don’t look disabled.”

The media and Hollywood have given the public the idea that a disabled vet is an amputee in a wheelchair, or in hospital pajamas and a robe drooling on themselves. Be it migraines, sleep apnea, bad knees, bad back, PTSD, hearing loss, tinnitus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, MST (military sexual trauma), cancer from Agent Orange, lung issues from burn pits, anxiety, rash or skin issues from a bacteria or parasite from the other side of the world, getting shot, blown up by a IED… many of these conditions can go undetected by an untrained and unobservant eye. A simple thank you for your service or sacrifice, or saying nothing at all, is better than you don’t look disabled.

5. “Do you have friends who died?”

Again another WTF question. Sacrifice and service does not end at missing weddings, birthdays, funerals, and experiencing body aches and mental illness.  Many veterans have friends who have died, be it in combat, training accident, off-base accident, cancer and suicide. There is no need to ask a veteran this question, if she or he wants to share they will; but odds are it will not be at the checkout line at Walmart with a stranger who saw the veteran’s t-shirt, hat or tattoos.

If you’re a veteran, what would you add?

Getty image via LightFieldStudios

Originally published: April 8, 2021
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